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IN-Sen: Republican Mike Braun wins hard-fought Senate race, unseats Dem. incumbent Joe Donnelly

Republican businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun has been elected to the U.S. Senate, with 53.9 percent of the vote at the time that the race was called.(Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)

Republican businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun has been elected to the U.S. Senate, unseating incumbent Sen. Joe Donnelly (D), with 53.9 percent of the vote at the time that the race was called.

Donnelly took 42 percent of the vote, while Libertarian Lucy Brenton took 4.1 percent of the vote at the time the race was called.

Braun held a 11-point lead over Donnelly when the race was called, with 51 percent of precincts reporting.

Donnelly ran uncontested in the May 8 primary, and Braun won the Republican nomination with 41.2 percent of the vote.

Braun fought a hard battle to win the Republican primary, facing off against U.S. Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita for an ultimately stunning upset.

Braun funneled millions of dollars of his own money into his bid for Senate, and joined the race late in the game, after the sitting congressmen had already been battling each other for months.

At one point, the insult-hurling during the primary had become so nasty, John Hammond III — a Republican National Committee official representing Indiana, said, “This race has slowly but surely descended into Dante’s Inferno. It will provide the Democrats an awful lot of free opposition research.”

Rokita and Messer accused Braun of his previous propensity toward voting in Democratic primaries, but Braun fought back and said that he was a lifelong Republican.

At one point, Rokita’s campaign penned a book criticizing Messer for selling his Indiana home and living in Washington, D.C., after winning his U.S. House seat. Messer’s campaign slammed Rokita over previous drunken driving convictions.

The race was considered one of the GOP’s best opportunities to flip a Senate seat from the Democrats.

Through the duration of election season, the Cook Political Report called the Indiana race a “toss-up.”

In May, the New York Times reported that Donnelly was “believed to be one of this election year’s most vulnerable Democrats,” and Fox News and Vox projected that Braun would unseat Donnelly.

Braun received endorsements from Indiana state Republican Reps. Chris May, Ron Bacon, Bob Morris, John Young, and Christopher Judy, as well as Indiana GOP state Sen. Liz Brown (R).

In a May interview with Fox News, Braun likened himself to Trump.

“President Trump, he was a disrupter, outsider and businessman, and look what’s occurred,” Braun said. “I’ve lived it. I’ve signed thousands of paychecks just like the president did [as a businessman]. He was an inspiration for me to run for senator, and I hope for others as well. There needs to be more of us to step outside the comfort zone.

He also said that his life experience had given him an edge over the competition.

“I won’t need to be briefed on important issues when I get [to Washington]. I’ve had to live through them,” Braun told Fox News. “I think if we had eight or 12 of us in the Senate who came from my business background, you’d see a lot of different things in government. The Senate is where the issues are, and most people there are career politicians.”

Polls on the two candidates varied throughout the election, and waffled back and forth with small lead margins.

In September and October, Donnelly and Braun changed leads in the polls quicker than the polls could be released.

Trump endorsed Braun in September, and Donnelly and Braun debated on Oct. 8 and Oct. 30.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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